St Luke of Simferopol, the Doctor (1877-1961)


There are often many striking similarities between saints separated by decades or even centuries. St Luke the Evangelist, for instance, was mirrored by St Luke of Simferopol, who similarly was an artist, doctor and evangelist. Born Valentin Felixovich Voino-Yasenetsky on 14 April 1877, he received an excellent secular education at the Kiev Academy of Fine Arts in drawing and subsequently at the University of Kiev in Medicine. He was married and had four children, but his wife, Anna, died at a young age.

The event which defined his life was the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 which established Communism in Russia. This had a direct impact on his work as a surgeon. Valentin would refuse to perform an operation without first praying before an icon of the Theotokos in the operating room, making the sign of the Cross on the patient with iodine. When Communist Party officials removed the icon, Valentin refused to return to surgery until it was returned. Soon afterward, a wife of a Communist Party official needed an operation, and specifically requested Valentin. When he refused to perform the surgery until the icon of the Panagia was returned, they complied and he returned to surgery.

In 1921, the 44 year old Valentin was called to the priesthood and within a few years was ordained a bishop with the name Luke. In this role he never stopped spreading the Orthodox Christian faith to the Russian people, who were constantly pressured by the Communists to abandon their religion. Luke was ultimately punished with eleven years exile for witnessing his faith. Despite this, his abilities as a surgeon and as a spiritual father shone. He was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1946 for his contribution to medicine, and as a bishop guided his flock through his homilies.

St Luke feared the Trisagion would not be chanted upon his death. His wish was granted. After his funeral in 1961, the people defied the Soviet state by chanting on the streets of Simferopol: “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal have mercy on us”.


Source: Lychnos November/December 2018